Matran is an Assyrian word for Metropolitan or Archbishop. The 'Metropolitans of Shamizdin' have always been known by their hereditary title of Mar Khnanishu. History records that there were at least 12 Metropolitans of Shamizdin since 1580 but the first two were not related to the Gida line and were actually loyal to the Pope.
Few realize that between 1553 – 1661 for a period of 108 years, one branch of today's ‘Assyrian Church of the East’ became known as ‘The Chaldean Catholic Church’ and was loyal to the Pope. Some historians label this era as the ‘Jilu period’, because three of the last five Catholic Patriarchs were from the Jilu Tribe.
In 1661, the bishops of this ‘Chaldean Church’ revolted against union with Rome and deposed Mar Yualla Shimun XII of Jilu. The following year in 1662, a new Patriarch was chosen Mar Dinkha Shimun XIII, who was a bishop of the old Nestorian Church of Alqosh (the rival church) and a member of the Patriarchal and Dynastical ‘Aboona family’, who incidentally had dominated the affairs of the Nestorian church, since the Patrirch Mar Timatiyus Aboona of Arbil (Iraq) in 1318 and his family reigned until 1975 and became known as the Mar Shimun of Quchanis family, Quchanis being the village that they inhabited up until 1915.
Of course, the Dynastical Aboona family were dictatorial to the extreme, they insisted that both Patriarchs of the two Churches and the Metropolitans, Bishops, Monks, Archdeacons and Priests all be chosen from the Dynastical ‘Aboona family’. So, this new Patriarch Mar Dinkha Shimun XIII had to choose an Archbishop for his new church and what better person to fulfill this vital post than his very own cousin.
A year after his own consecration, Mar Shimun XIII went about consecrating his first cousin Mar Sargis Khnanishu I as 'Metropolitan of Rustaqa for Shamizdin' in 1663. They re-introduced hereditary succession within the Church hierarchy and jointly controlled Assyrian Church affairs for a period of 312 years.
This period often referred to as the ‘Qudshanis era' and is most famous for 2 things namely; restoring independence from Rome and re-labeling the ‘Chaldean’ identity to the ‘Assyrian’ as it is known today. Their joint destiny came to an end when both distant cousins died in the mid-1970’s.
Sometime in the mid 17th century, there were 3 brothers (who were also priests) by the names of Sargis, Khisru and the third brother’s name remains unknown, from the Gida Family who lived in the village of 'Daireh & Komaneh' possibly in the Mar Odisu monastery near Amedia (Iraq). One of the brothers Sargis may very well have been a monk, as well as a priest.
For yet unknown reasons, the 3 brothers left and settled in the village of Alheh in the Nerwa region (Iraq) for a period of seven years. From Alheh, the brother whose name is still unknown went to Jarma in Bagzadeh (Iran) and Sargis and Khisru went to Rustaqa, possibly to the village of Sararu where they settled.
These 3 brothers were cousins of the Patriarch Mar Dinkha Shimun XIII. In 1663, when the new Patriarch was looking to consecrate a Metropolitan for his new Church, he summoned the 3 brothers to travel to his residence at Khosrawa in the district of Salama to consecrate one of them as Archbishop of the Church of the East. The story goes that the unknown brother in Jarma although was a priest but felt that he was not up to being a Metropolitan, so didn’t enter the contest. The other two brothers however, set out to the Patriarchal residency through snowy winter conditions.
As fortune would have it, only Sargis managed the tough journey to his cousin the Patriarch and was consequently consecrated Matran, while Khisru failed to complete the tough journey. Apparently, Mar Shimun the Patriarch announced, “Since, the other 2 brothers could not make the hazardous journey, it must then be God who has chosen you Sargis, to be the Metropolitan of this new Church”.
So, the seat of Metropolitan remained in the Gida House until 1977, with the last Matran being the Saint Mar Yosip Khnanishu X. Since obviously, Metropolitans don’t marry, the seat was passed down from uncle to nephew. The second Metropolitan of Shamizdin must have been Khisru’s son and so on, until the 10th and last of the Gida House. No one is quite sure why they called them The Gidas, whether Gida was the father of Mar Sargis and so being the uncle of Mar Shimon, or indeed whether Gida was actually a village or the name of a church somewhere, the name issue remains unsolved.
Throughout history the Metropolitans of this house have been known for performing miracles. There are numerous tales that abound concerning Mar Iskhaq and Mar Yosip and indeed other members of the family's astonishing gift of mystasim and healing. The Church of the East finally realized this in the 1980’s and consecrated Mar Yosip Khnanishu as an official Saint of the Assyrian Church and introduced a special feast dedicated to him in their annual calendar.
Today, the Matran family are still revered and are always addressed by their tribe as ‘Jani’ (a mark of respect). Currently they don’t have a Metropolitan bishop in the family, however Nenif Matran Hariri is most active in internal tribal affairs.
The first 2 were also hereditary since at least the early 18th Century but Mar Timatiyus was a recent addition to the Bishops of Shamizdin and was assigned to India. It is often said, that all three of these Bishopric families stemmed from the Matran family. Sometimes when the Matran family had extra Nazarited (Nzereh) priests in the family, they would be made bishops for surrounding areas.
In any case, it would be inconceivable to think that any new bishops would be consecrated after 1663 for the Shamizdin area that were not from the Gida fold, the Matran family just would not accept them, because it would mean in turn that they were not related to the Mar Shimun family and that would simply be out of the question, they had to be somehow related to the famous Aboona Dynasty.
The last Mar Youkhanan died in Diyana in the 1970’s, however Mar Dinkha IV of Tees went on to become the current Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. So, it seems the Gida family still control the Assyrian Church of the East. Finally, the Mar Yukhanan family are planning to re-introduce the bishopery by choosing a son to take his forefather’s place. Whether the Mar Dinkha IV family choose to continue their hereditary privilege is yet to be seen. While the Matran family have dedicated a newborn son to be ‘Guardian of the Chair’ (Nadtir Kursi) to the Mar Khnanishu XI throne, his name is Bawa the son of Nenif Matran Hariri who will lead the life of a Nazarite (Nzera), just like his father’s granduncle. Long may they all live.
However, both families remain tight lipped about the relationship, if indeed there really is one. If one is to hazard a guess at this subject, then the family tie probably goes back to when both families lived in the Amedia region in the mid 17th century, prior to their departure to Nochiya and Barzan respectively. The Mar Khnanishu family were monks in the monastery of Mar Odishu in the twin village of Daireh & Komaneh while the Barzan family might well have been the bishops in the adjacent city of Amedia, remember that most leading monks and bishops at the time had to be chosen from the same Dynastic ‘Aboona family’. Once Mustafa Barzani’s ancestors fled Amedia, it is documented and interesting that they chose to settle for a number of years in the village of Havanka, (at the time one of the few Assyrian Christian villages in the Baroj area) before finally moving to the village of Barzan.
One story that is often retold by the older folk of Harir is that in the 1940’s, whilst the Saint Mar Yosip Khnanishu X and his brother Shlimon were attending a funeral in the village of Barzan, Mustafa Barzani’s brother Sheikh Ahmad produced an old Syriac manuscript which he was unable to decipher. Upon request, the Saint Mar Yosip translated the manuscript, which was found in the local church and confirmed the Barzani family relationship to the Aboona Dynasty.
Apparently, after this revelation Sheikh Ahmad took a much less conservative stance to his own Islamic believes and made drastic reforms to his religious ideology on things like lent and prayer. Some claim that this was the initiation of the Khorshidi religious sect, now so dominant in the Barzan area. The manuscript still exists, somewhere! Whether the above stories are true, no one really knows but one thing is certain, the two families for the past 100 years have gone out of their way to support each other politically, financially and militarily, Why?
As a footnote to this story, the Aboona dynasty who may have been leaders of the Adiabene Kingdom (since, Adiabene means Khda-Ab in Assyrian, short for One-Aboona, or One-Father in English) are probably the most under estimated family in the whole Middle East. They have been in charge of Christian religious and political matters in the Kurdistan Region since 1318. Some claim in addition to Mustafa Barzani's family that indeed most of the Muslim Sheikhs and Aghas in Kurdistan are also descendants of the Aboona family. Making them one of the oldest and most dominant families, still in charge of Northern Iraq to this very day, in a similar way that their original capital the 'Citadel of Arbil' is still, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
|Mar Sargis Khnanisho I||1624-1694||Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey||Consecrated 1663|
|Mar ? Khnanisho II||1652-1722||Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey||none|
|Mar ? Khnanisho III||1680-1750||Mart Shmuni Monastery, Charukhiya, Diyarbakır, Turkey||Traveled to Jerusalem|
|Mar Dawid Khnanisho IV||1708-1778||Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey||none|
|Mar Eshaya Khnanisho V||1736-1806||Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey||none|
|Mar ? Khnanisho VI||1764-1834||Mar Yaqu Monastery, Darband, Targawar, Iran||none|
|Mar ? Khnanisho VII||1792-1862||Mar Tooma Church, Balulan, Targawar, Iran||none|
|Mar Yosip Khnanisho VIII||1820-1884||Mar Ishu Monastery, Rustaqa, Turkey||Metropolitan for 22 Years|
|Mar Iskhaq Khnanisho IX||1848-1919||Special Shrine, Lajan Plain, Kerminshah, Iran||Metropolitan for 35 Years|
|Saint Mar Yosip Khnanisho X||1893-1977||Mart Maryam Church, Naeriya, Baghdad, Iraq||Metropolitan for 58 Years|